Thursday, 24 April 2014 | MYT 7:25 PM
France aim for fifth place in Champions Challenge I
KUALA LUMPUR: Champions Challenge I debutants France are hoping to create an upset in their Group B matches when the tournament begins at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan on Friday.
France will open their campaign against hosts Malaysia. The other teams in the group are South Korea and Canada.
Group A comprises New Zealand, Japan, Poland and Ireland.
France coach Frederic Soyez said they have included 12 players from their Junior World Cup squad who claimed a silver in New Delhi, India, last December.
He hopes that his charges can finish at least fifth among the eight teams.
“We’ve just finished playing Test matches against Belgium. Although we lost those matches, it gave the players good exposure,” he said.
France arrived late on Tuesday and played a friendly against Japan on Wednesday, winning 4-3.
“We didn’t have a very long time to prepare for the Champions Challenge I after the Junior World Cup but we hope to play well against the very strong teams who have assembled here in Kuantan,” said Soyez.
He expects the match against world No. 13 Malaysia to be an exciting one.
He has also warned his players to be fully committed as he expects the Malaysian team to be buoyed by the vociferous support of the home fans.
“It’s going to be a good game. We’ve always wanted to play against Asian teams ... our match against Malaysia will give us a good indication of our present level,” said Soyez.
“Malaysia are a very experienced side and play a fast game. They are also preparing for the World Cup and, if we can stop them or share points, that would be great.”
France will be counting on their five experienced players, who each has more than 100 international caps.
They are goalkeeper Mathiew Durchon (169 caps), defender Francois Scheefer (127), captain Martin Genestet (113), Valentin Migneau (104) and Lucas Sevestre (103).
Soyez also pointed out that he doesn’t expect his players to be affected by the humidity and sweltering temperatures in Kuantan “as we have adapted to the conditions here and are looking forward to our opening match against Malaysia”.
“The weather is fine with us, the heat too ... Malaysia is a nice place. We are ready for the opening tie,” he said.